Bill Holder

William Holder ¹75 is editor of Wesleyan magazine.

Roth Sees Growing Appreciation for Liberal Education in China

President Michael Roth recently returned from a trip to China and South Korea for a round of receptions, lectures, media interviews and visits with alumni. The trip provided an opportunity to both enhance Wesleyan’s visibility in these countries and to discuss the value of liberal learning, Wesleyan style.

In Shanghai, Roth met with business leaders to discuss liberal education’s role in preparing students for productive careers, and then spoke at a reception and book launch for the new Chinese edition of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. The reception was attended by more than 130 current parents, prospective students and press, and demand for the book outpaced supply.

Roth lectured at Shanghai International Studies University, an event attended by about 200 students, and at Peking University, where he also met with officials to discuss partnership activities such as faculty exchanges and summer student exchanges. He completed his stay in Beijing with a presidential reception, where he spoke to alumni, parents and prospective students about what students should get out of college.

“In China, I’ve found a deep and growing appreciation for liberal education,” Roth said. “Students posed many thoughtful questions that led to interesting exchanges. I’ve come away more convinced than ever that Wesleyan has much to offer Chinese students and that there are opportunities to develop some very beneficial partnerships.”

The trip concluded in Seoul with a reception and remarks, including the opportunity to meet with several South Korean alumni who have encouraged interest in Wesleyan among prospective students and college counselors.

Wesleyan Offers a Free Semester for Students from University of Puerto Rico

Responding to the ongoing tragedy in Puerto Rico, Wesleyan is offering a free semester of study in the spring of 2018 to students enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico. Students will be expected to pay tuition at their home institution, and Wesleyan will offer free housing and meals as needed. Many other institutions across the country are stepping up as well and the University of Puerto Rico has developed a standard framework for this project.

Students enrolled at other institutions in Puerto Rico may be eligible as well, and should contact Wesleyan at gueststudent@wesleyan.edu for more information.

“Opening our campus to students from Puerto Rico is a meaningful way we can provide assistance that will make a real difference in the lives of some students,” said President Michael Roth. “It’s so evident that the need for help is overwhelming, and I know our campus community will welcome students with open arms.”

Wesleyan-Middletown Collaborations Strengthen Community

The Wesleyan Upward Bound Math-Science Program is designed to help low-income and first-generation college students recognize and develop their potential, to excel in math and science, and pursue post secondary degrees. The Upward Bound Program is benefiting from new federal funding and is one of many Wesleyan-Middletown collaborations. Pictured are Upward Bound students in 2016. 

A new $1.3 million grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education over five years to Wesleyan’s Upward Bound Math-Science program has brought federal funding for an important collaborative initiative in Middletown that will help provide low-income, historically underrepresented high school students with pathways to success in science and math.

The grant is the latest in a growing list of initiatives that are bringing Middletown and Wesleyan together in projects large and small.

“We don’t often pause to appreciate the full scope of collaborations between Wesleyan and Middletown,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth, “but when we do, the many ways they are contributing to the growth of our strong local community become so apparent. We couldn’t ask for better partners than we have here in Middletown.”

Graduate Liberal Studies Partners with ARC Program for Teaching Certification

Students who are admitted, or have already matriculated to Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies program will receive priority consideration for admission to the Connecticut’s Alternative Route to (Teaching) Certification.

Wesleyan has partnered with the State of Connecticut’s Alternative Route to Certification (ARC) program in a new initiative that will benefit both Wesleyan undergraduates seeking teaching certification and ARC participants seeking a master’s degree.

The ARC program, in existence since 1986, is of particular interest to working professionals making a career change into becoming an educator since it offers a one-year, part-time path to obtaining teaching certification in Connecticut.

Jennifer Curran, director of Continuing Studies and Graduate Liberal Studies, says Wesleyan proposed a partnership to ARC officials – one that would be mutually beneficial. Current ARC students and ARC alumni need a master’s degree to obtain full certification in Connecticut, and that’s what GLS can provide. As an incentive to ARC students, Wesleyan is offering scholarship support that significantly lowers the cost of obtaining a master’s degree.

As Theater Department Chair, Conlin Says Students Leave Strengthened to Generate New Work

Kathleen Conlin, the Frank B. Weeks Visiting Professor of Theater—here, behind the scenes with stage lights—values a rich mix of visiting professionals and continuing faculty, which results in a stimulating “creative collision.”

The Theater Department has begun fall semester with a new chair who combines an impressive list of creative accomplishments with deep and varied experience as an academic administrator.

Kathleen Conlin, Frank B. Weeks Visiting Professor of Theater, has held tenured faculty positions at the University of Texas at Austin, Ohio State University, and the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana. While juggling the varied demands of an academic career, she also served for 22 seasons as associate artistic director and stage director at the Utah Shakespeare Theater.

“I love being around young people who are not narrowly defined and are actively working to discover who they are and who they are in society,” she says. “To be able to do that through an arts lens is spectacular.”

Wesleyan Makes Efforts to Hire Underrepresented Employees

Wesleyan is making determined efforts to hire individuals from historically underrepresented groups, which have resulted in significant advances lately.

In 2017, 45 percent of staff hired (not including faculty) were of color — a dramatic increase from 26.4 percent the year before and the previous five-year high of 30.6 percent in 2014. Overall, 22.8 percent of staff identify themselves as of color.

Julia Hicks, chief human resources officer, points out that increasing diversity in the workplace has been shown to improve organizational performance. Diversity fosters inclusive cultures where individual differences are respected, teamwork is promoted, and intercultural competence and respect increase.

“We’ve made progress in part by changing our internal approach,” she says. “When hiring, we don’t take the easy way out. We partner with hiring managers to slow down their searches, to think harder about the pool than they might have in the past, to probe more and consider if candidates whose skills aren’t an exact match might be able to transfer those skills successfully to a different environment.”

Competencies Framework Will Help Students Build Personal Narratives

Joyce Jacobsen

Joyce Jacobsen

Wesleyan has developed a competencies framework to help students describe the skills that they can develop through their academic and co-curricular experiences, according to Joyce Jacobsen, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Certification of skills is a trend in higher education nowadays, particularly among providers of online education. While recognizing the importance of acquiring career—and life-building—skills, Jacobsen says Wesleyan’s approach also emphasizes the importance of helping students build a personal narrative about their Wesleyan experience.

“Competencies tie into current trends in higher education, regarding certification and acquisition of specific skills,” she adds. “We’re saying, however, that competencies should be acquired in a broader framework that speaks to the goals of liberal education. We’re trying to give students terms they can use to explain their liberal education to potential employers, to their families, to themselves.”

Robert F. Schumann Institute of the College of the Environment Is Established

Trustees and advisors of the Robert F. Schumann Foundation were on campus July 26 to celebrate the establishment of the new Robert F. Schumann Institute of the College of the Environment with a $2.5 million grant to Wesleyan. The institute is named for the late Robert F. Schumann ’44. Pictured, at left, Timothy Crowley, Robert F. Schumann Foundation Trustee; Barry Chernoff, director of the College of the Environment; Schumann’s sons Ford Schumann and David Schumann; Marc Eisner, dean of the Social Sciences Division; and Joe Knee, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division.

The Robert F. Schumann [’44] Foundation has given Wesleyan $2.5 million to establish the Robert F. Schumann Institute of the College of the Environment (COE). The Institute will integrate approaches to learning, research and communication about environmental issues in ways that extend the COE’s educational programs within and beyond Wesleyan.

The Schumann Institute will provide students with life-changing experiences that will develop their abilities to address environmental issues. In order to achieve these goals the Institute will collaborate with or stimulate programs in global studies, civic engagement, arts, environmental (in)justice and sustainability and food security and agriculture.

Barry Chernoff, at left, thanks Ford Schumann, center, and David Schumann, for their father's gift to Wesleyan.

Barry Chernoff thanks Ford Schumann and David Schumann, who are the Robert F. Schumann Foundation advisors.

“I’m so pleased that Bob Schumann’s vision of engaging broader communities in environmental work will now be anchored in the Schumann Institute,” said Barry Chernoff, director of the COE and Robert F. Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies. “I could not think of a more appropriate legacy for Bob, who was deeply devoted to environmental education and to Wesleyan.”

The Institute will emphasize project-based learning, with courses where students participate in faculty-led research teams. It will provide students with internship opportunities, working with specialists outside Wesleyan. Students will also be able to take new courses in food security that integrate research on the two-acre Long Lane Farm. Furthermore, the Institute’s program will develop the arts as an instrument of engagement, sustainability and communication.

“Bob’s generous financial commitment almost two decades ago

Baileys Support Groundbreaking Approach to Environmental Studies

On April 7, Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 visited the College of Letters.

Essel Bailey ’66 and his wife, Menakka, visited the College of the Environment on April 7.

Essel Bailey ’66 believes that science is the foundation for addressing questions of environmental policy, which aptly describes the purpose of Wesleyan’s College of the Environment. Now, he and his wife, Menakka, have increased their support of the COE with a new $4 million commitment to its programs, faculty and students – bringing their total gift to the COE to $7.5 million.

In part, their endowment gift will fund a multi-pronged effort to extend the work and themes of the Menakka and Essel Bailey Think Tank throughout the campus, explained Barry Chernoff, chair of the COE and the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies. Chernoff is planning for seminars, workshops and faculty-student research grants as means for engaging the wider community in Think Tank themes, such as next year’s topic – Disruptions to Disasters: Confronting the Human-Environmental Relationship. The fund also supports a Distinguished Visiting Scholar, a position currently held by Professor Henry Adams of Case Western University.

“Wesleyan is committed to graduating informed citizens who will become involved in a broad range of environmental practices and policy-making,” said President Michael Roth ’78. “We are so grateful to Essel and Menakka for their sustained support of the College of the Environment and its curricular initiatives. They have helped the College achieve its mission with distinction.”

StemCONN Symposium Shows Connecticut is Leader in Stem Cell Research

Stephen Devoto, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, spoke on “A Protection Racket: Tbx6 and the Establishment of Muscle Stem Cells in the Zebrafish Embryo” during the StemConn 2017 conference, held April 27 in New Haven, Conn.

Professor Stephen Devoto spoke at the StemConn 2017 conference, held April 27 in New Haven, Conn.

The annual StemCONN conference, held April 27 in New Haven, made clear that Connecticut’s commitment to stem cell research has helped the state become a national leader in this burgeoning area of research and commercial development.

Wesleyan is one of the founders of the StemCONN conference, along with Yale and the University of Connecticut. This year marks the 6th StemCONN conference, an event that brings together more than 500 individuals from academic institutions, bioscience industry, and government.

“Stem cell research continues to be an exciting and fast-paced field with new discoveries fueling prospects for new therapies based on regenerative medicine for a range of debilitating medical conditions, and Connecticut is at the leading edge of this field,” said Janice Naegele, professor of biology and one of the symposium’s organizers. “A major emphasis of StemConn’s mission is education, and this year’s conference attendees included undergraduate trainees, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. Special interactive sessions over lunch provided a fabulous small group format for undergraduate and graduate students to ask questions and discuss career paths with our invited speakers. This is a one of a kind opportunity for many of our trainees.”

Connecticut passed ground-breaking legislation in 2005, becoming the first state to fully approve funding for stem cell research. The 12-year, $100-million per year initiative has enabled the state to compete successfully for scientific talent in the field and has helped to establish a growing bioscience corridor in the Hartford-New Haven area.

Greenhouse Delivers the Hugo L. Black Lecture on ‘Writing the Truth in the Age of Trump’

Linda Greenhouse, the Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, delivered the 26th annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression on April 20. Greenhouse, who covered the U.S. Supreme Court from 1978 to 2008 as a New York Times reporter, spoke about “Writing the Truth in the Age of Trump.”

On April 20, Linda Greenhouse, the Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, delivered the 26th annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression in Beckham Hall. Greenhouse, who covered the U.S. Supreme Court from 1978 to 2008 as a New York Times reporter, spoke about “Writing the Truth in the Age of Trump.”

Wesleyan Receives Mellon Grant for Pedagogical Innovation

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The Center for Pedagogical Innovation and Lifelong Learning (CPI) helps faculty use new technologies to benefit their teaching. Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish and director of the Center for Global Studies, uses videoconferencing technology in his class to connect with students in Madrid.

Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish and director of the Center for Global Studies, is comfortably seated in front of a semicircle of 11 students. He holds an iPad Pro that controls two large screens on the wall behind him and enables him to move effortlessly, seamlessly from Google Maps, to video clips, to text he can annotate on the iPad. All the while he converses in Spanish with his students about a movie that tells the story of a Moroccan woman repatriating the body of her brother after he died crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in a small boat.

In another class, Gonzalez and a colleague in Madrid co-teach with the help of high-quality videoconferencing technology. (See article.)

“You can’t believe what a success my trans-Atlantic classroom arrangement has become. It was as if the students in Spain were here with us,” says Gonzalez. In one class, students in Spain conversed with peers in Middletown about why certain homicides in Ciudad Juarez had not been classified as terrorism. “Talk about interculturalism!”

Technology is helping Gonzalez to teach differently and more effectively. And that’s one goal of the Center for Pedagogical Innovation and Lifelong Learning (CPI), which has been working with faculty members on new techniques and pedagogical strategies.

Now the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given the CPI a major boost with a $750,000 grant to fund its activities for the next four and a half years.